Applying for a Job at a Start-up? Remember these 3 Things

Sometimes you just have to be brave enough to take the leap

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BY Lian Kyla Dyogi - 15 Jun 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

So you’ve decided that you want to experience the start-up life—long hours, flat structure, steep learning curve, and all. For those jumping from a corporate job or fresh grads looking to learn, be prepared.

“Applying for a start-up is a lot riskier because even when you strongly believe in the start-up’s product or mission, there’s no guarantee that they will make it to the next level—start-ups can die anytime,” says Sahil Gumber, “growth hacker” at Thailand-based GetLinks—a tech hiring marketplace. He adds, “The basic rule of higher risk leading to higher returns applies.”

Undeterred? Here are 3 things you should keep in mind before taking the plunge:

1. Start-up life isn’t glamorous

Start-up life is tough. Don’t let the glossy image of start-ups in popular culture fool you. Teams are small, “mostly in the single digits,” says Gumber. Angeli Recella, people operations head of STORM Technologies, a Filipino start-up that provides employee incentive and benefits solutions driven by tech, says “Start-ups are known to be very lean in their management style—expect your job description to be fluid. This means you have to be agile in learning and execution.”

It’s an overly repeated phrase but employees do wear a lot of hats. This can be exhausting for some people so make sure to “deploy self-awareness,” as digital marketing tycoon Gary Vaynerchuck often says, when assessing if start-up life is for you.

2. Find a start-up that aligns with your “Why”

Find a start-up that has a mission you’re excited about. “You want your hires to be truly excited about what you’re building. This is true across all roles that we hire for regardless of experience or seniority,” said CEO and co-founder Ron Hose in this Inc. Southeast Asia article.

Being familiar with the company’s “Why” way before the interview might increase your chances of getting hired. “Let the recruiter know how aligned you are with their company's core values or position that you are applying for,” Recella says. She adds the best "foot in the door" is a customized letter of intent to the recruiter, telling them why you would be a good catch.

Most importantly, clarify the reason why you want to apply for a start-up. Gumber suggests finding “a career-defining reason,” especially for those looking to transfer from a corporate job.

3. Over-prepare for the famed start-up interview process

If you’ve watched The Internship starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, then wouldn’t you agree it’s one long Google ad? Kidding aside, the tech company is popular for its interview process and so are other start-ups.

Recella says, “Because we take culture very seriously, three out of four interview steps are culture screens. A lot of start-ups are like this. They value culture fit and so they add something unique to their recruitment process depending on the core values they want to screen for.”

Her tips to conquer the interview? First, prepare, and even “stalk the LinkedIn profiles of their managers and team that you are applying for.” Second, be authentic. “It’s okay to be a bit quirky and be fully transparent about your geekdom,” she says.

But sometimes you don’t even need to wait for a job posting. Writes Jeff Haden in this Inc. article, “Don’t even wait for an opening to be posted; after all, you’ve identified ways you can immediately help the company you want to work for. Wrangle an introduction, meet someone who can actually influence the hiring decision, and pitch away.”

You could say being bold pays off. After all, working in a start-up has its fair share of rewards. However, remember to leave your ego at the door. “You have to ask questions without fear of being perceived as dumb. You have to be humble enough to know that you will make mistakes, and that's okay,” adds Recella.

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